Missouri lawmakers debate about the new rule, which would require women in the House to wear jackets to cover bare arms. (Credit: Fox 2 St. Louis, Youtube)

“You know what it feels like to have a bunch of men in this room looking at your top, trying to decide whether it’s appropriate or not?”

This is what Missouri State Rep. Ashley Aune (D-14th District) had to say in a video clip posted by Heartland Signal regarding a new proposal that would impose a dress code on women legislators in the Missouri House of Representatives.

Rep. Ann Kelley (R-127th District) proposed a requirement that women legislators wear jackets on the House floor, saying “it is essential to always maintain a formal and professional atmosphere.”

Kelley’s proposal changes the wording of current rules — which state “dresses or skirts or slacks worn with a blazer or sweater and appropriate dress shoes or boots” are allowed — to instead purport that jackets are required to cover bare arms. 

The new rule, part of House Resolution 11, would state “Proper attire for women shall be business attire, including jackets worn with dresses, skirts, or slacks, and dress shoes or boots.” 

The lower chamber gave the green light to the comprehensive rules package after it was amended to allow cardigans to count as jackets. While it has not yet been submitted to the Senate, it has already sparked outrage among assembly members.

“I’ve seen a lot of lack of decorum in this room in my two years here and not once has that lack of decorum spurred from someone’s blazer or lack thereof,” said Rep. Aune in the video clip. She recalled past incidents of male members of the Legislature calling her attire into question, and said the policing of clothing was “ridiculous” when there were other priorities to tackle in the statehouse.

Rep. Raychel Proudie (D-53rd District) agreed there were more serious matters the House should have been debating, “but instead, we are fighting again for women’s right to choose something.”

She expressed her frustration over spending $1,200 on clothing she would be unable to wear “because someone who doesn’t have the range tells me that it’s inappropriate.”

The dress code for men, which requires “coat, tie, dress trousers and dress shoes or boots,” remained unchanged.

Women hold less than a third of seats in the Missouri House.